Bendorf Elementary namesake passionate about education


Bendorf Elementary School is named for, first and foremost, a mother.

Patricia Bendorf stopped at nothing to ensure that her daughters, and all children, received a proper education.

The school, on the southwest corner of Spring Mountain Road and El Capitan Way, was dedicated in 1992. Bendorf and her husband, Jerry, moved to the valley in 1964. She worked for Southwest Gas until 1979, but her real job -- her passion -- was her kids' education.

One of her daughters had a learning disability, a form of dyslexia. Bendorf asked that her daughters' names not be used.

Starting in kindergarten, Bendorf felt that her daughter's special education needs weren't being met.

"Years ago, if your child had any kind of a handicap, there were no facilities to address their needs," Bendorf said. "They were placed in the back of the classroom and, as long as they behaved themselves and didn't create a problem, they were just passed from one grade to another regardless of if they were learning anything.

"I approached the district for help to address her needs, and there wasn't any. There was nothing."

Bendorf said many parents at the time had to pay for private school or send their child out of state to specialized institutions in order for them to be educated.

Bendorf rallied support from parents locally and statewide through telephone and letter-writing campaigns to support Public Law 94-142, now the Education of All Handicapped Children Act.

Congress passed the law in 1975, but some schools did not immediately change. Bendorf started parental campaigns to get the Clark County School District to uphold the new law. She also organized local workshops to educate parents about it.

In part because of her efforts, Bendorf's daughter and other children with disabilities saw the first self-contained classrooms put in place.

After a few years of specialized teaching, Bendorf's daughter was learning at her grade level and did not need any special help after fifth grade.

"If you catch these problems early on, magnificent things happen," Bendorf said.

Bendorf was involved with dozens of educational organizations after that. She was the co-founder and president of the Southern Nevada Association for Children with Learning Disabilities and president of the Nevada State Association for Children with Learning Disabilities. Bendorf lobbied for the PTA and other organizations in Carson City and Washington, D.C., in the 1970s and '80s. She held several positions in the Clark County School District, including school board trustee from 1983 to '86.

Bendorf visited every home in her district while campaigning for the school board. The campaign card that she handed to everyone she met had her home phone number on it.

"Nothing much has changed," she said about the district's struggles. "They're facing the exact same problems today that we faced then. You're always trying to get enough money to cover the needs of education in this state. Every session, you have to go back and fight to keep the funds you have and hopefully get a few extra dollars."

Bendorf lives in the Spring Valley area and less than three miles from her school. She has five grandchildren here, too.

She still enjoys visiting the school to read to students when she can. Principal Joanna Gerali-Schwartz is happy to have Bendorf as the school's namesake.

"She's a positive, supportive influence on the school," Gerali-Schwartz said. "She'll make sure she comes to all the events; she comes to the assemblies. If I need help with the kids, she will do anything I ask her to.

"They're little things, but they're huge. She doesn't do it to get the accolades. She doesn't want to be made a big deal out of. She does all this without wanting anything in return."

Contact View education reporter Jeff Mosier at jmosier@viewnews.com or 224-5524.

 

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